Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "Humankind cannot stand very much reality."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Ch. 11: The First Folio

    • Rate it:
    • 1 Favorite on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 12
    Previous Chapter
    "The First Folio" is the name commonly given to the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays. The volume includes a Preface signed by two of the actors, Heminge and Condell, panegyrical verses by Ben Jonson and others, and a bad engraved portrait. The book has been microscopically examined by Baconians, hunting for cyphered messages from their idol in italics, capital letters, misprints, and everywhere. Their various discoveries do not win the assent of writers like the late Lord Penzance and Mr. Greenwood.

    The mystery as to the sources, editing, and selection of plays in the Folio (1623) appears to be impenetrable. The title-page says that ALL the contents are published "according to the true original copies." If ONLY MS. copies are meant, this is untrue; in some cases the best quartos were the chief source, supplemented by MSS. The Baconians, following Malone, think that Ben Jonson wrote the Preface (and certainly it looks like his work), {207a} speaking in the name of the two actors who sign it. They say that Shakespeare's friends "have collected and published" the plays, have so published them "that whereas you were abus'd with divers stolne and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious impostors that exposed them: EVEN THOSE" (namely, the pieces previously ill-produced by pirates) "are now offered to your view cur'd, and perfect of their limbes; and ALL THE REST" (that is, all the plays which had not been piratically debased), "absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them." So obscure is the Preface that not ALL previously published separate plays are explicitly said to be stolen and deformed, but "DIVERS stolen copies" are denounced. Mr. Pollard makes the same point in Shakespeare Folios and Quartos, p. 2 (1909).

    Now, as a matter of fact, while some of the quarto editions of separate plays are very bad texts, others are so good that the Folio sometimes practically reprints them, with some tinkerings, from manuscripts. Some quartos, like that of Hamlet of 1604, are excellent, and how they came to be printed from good texts, and whether or not the texts were given to the press by Shakespeare's Company, or were sold, or stolen, is the question. Mr. Pollard argues, on grounds almost certain, that "we have strong prima facie evidence that the sale to publishers of plays afterwards duly entered on the Stationers' Registers was regulated by their lawful owners." {208a}

    The Preface does not explicitly deny that some of the separately printed texts were good, but says that "divers" of them were stolen and deformed. My view of the meaning of the Preface is not generally held. Dr. H. H. Furness, in his preface to Much Ado about Nothing (p. vi), says, "We all know that these two friends of Shakespeare assert in their Preface to the Folio that they had used the Author's manuscripts, and in the same breath denounce the Quartos as stolen and surreptitious." I cannot see, I repeat, that the Preface denounces ALL the Quartos. It could be truly said that DIVERS stolen and maimed copies had been foisted on "abused" purchasers, and really no more IS said. Dr. Furness writes, "When we now find them using as 'copy' one of these very Quartos" (Much Ado about Nothing, 1600), "we need not impute to them a wilful falsehood if we suppose that in using what they knew had been printed from the original text, howsoever obtained, they held it to be the same as the manuscript itself . . . " That WAS their meaning, I think, the Quarto of Much Ado had NOT been "maimed" and "deformed," as divers other quartos, stolen and surreptitious, had been.

    Shakspere, unlike most of the other playwrights, was a member of his Company. I presume that his play was thus the common good of his Company and himself. If they sold a copy to the press, the price would go into their common stock; unless they, in good will, allowed the author to pocket the money.

    It will be observed that I understand the words of the Preface otherwise than do the distinguished Editors of the Cambridge edition. They write, "The natural inference to be drawn from this statement" (in the Preface) "is that ALL the separate editions of Shakespeare's plays were 'stolen,' 'surreptitious' and imperfect, AND THAT ALL THOSE PUBLISHED IN THE FOLIO WERE PRINTED FROM THE AUTHOR'S OWN MANUSCRIPTS" (my italics). The Editors agree with Dr. Furness, not with Mr. Pollard, whose learned opinion coincides with my own.

    Perhaps it should be said that I reached my own construction of the sense of this passage in the Preface by the light of nature, before Mr. Pollard's valuable book, based on the widest and most minute research, came into my hands. By the results of that research he backs his opinion (and mine), that some of the quartos are surreptitious and bad, while others are good "and were honestly obtained." {210a} The Preface never denies this; never says that all the quartos contain maimed and disfigured texts. The Preface draws a distinction to this effect, "even those" (even the stolen and deformed copies) "are now cured and perfect in their limbs,"--that is, have been carefully edited, while "ALL THE REST" are "absolute in their numbers as he conceived them." This does not allege that all the rest are printed from Shakespeare's own holograph copies.

    Among the plays spoken of as "all the rest," namely, those not hitherto published and not deformed by the fraudulent, are, Tempest, Two Gentlemen, Measure for Measure, Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, All's Well, Twelfth Night, Winter's Tale, Henry VI, iii., Henry VIII, Coriolanus, Timon, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and Cymbeline. Also Henry VI, i., ii., King John, and Taming of the Shrew, appeared now in other form than in the hitherto published Quartos bearing these or closely similar names. We have, moreover, no previous information as to The Shrew, Timon, Julius Caesar, All's Well, and Henry VIII. The Preface adds the remarkable statement that, whatever Shakespeare thought, "he uttered with that easinesse, that wee have scarce received from him a blot in his papers."

    It is plain that the many dramas previously unpublished could only be recovered from manuscripts of one sort or another, because they existed in no other form. The Preface takes it for granted that the selected manuscripts contain the plays "absolute in their numbers as he conceived them." But the Preface does not commit itself, I repeat, to the statement that all of these many plays are printed from Shakespeare's own handwriting. After "as he conceived them," it goes on, "Who, as he was a most happy imitator of nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind and hand went together: and what he thought he uttered with that easiness, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers."

    This may be meant to SUGGEST, but does not AFFIRM, that the actors HAVE "all the rest" of the plays in Shakespeare's own handwriting. They may have, or may have had, some of his manuscripts, and believed that other manuscripts accessible to them, and used by them, contain his very words. Whether from cunning or design, or from the Elizabethan inability to tell a plain tale plainly, the authors or author of the Preface have everywhere left themselves loopholes and ways of evasion and escape. It is not possible to pin them down to any plain statement of facts concerning the sources for the hitherto unpublished plays, "the rest" of the plays.

    These, at least, were from manuscript sources which the actors thought accurate, and some may have been "fair copies" in Shakespeare's own hand. (Scott, as regards his novels, sent his prima cura, his first writing down, to the press, and his pages are nearly free from blot or erasion. In one case at least, Shelley's first draft of a poem is described as like a marsh of reeds in water, with wild ducks, but he made very elegant fair copies for the press.) Let it be supposed that Ben Jonson wrote all this Preface, in accordance with the wishes and instructions of the two actors who sign it. He took their word for the almost blotless MSS. which they received from Shakespeare. He remarks, in his posthumously published Discoveries (notes, memories, brief essays), "I remember the players have OFTEN mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare, that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line." And Ben gives, we shall later see, his habitual reply to this habitual boast.

    As to the sources of such plays as had been "maimed and deformed by injurious impostors," and are now "offered cur'd and perfect of their limbs," "it can be proved to demonstration," say the Cambridge Editors, "that several plays in the Folio were printed from earlier quarto editions" (but the players secured a retreat on this point), "and that in other cases the quarto is more correctly printed, or from a better manuscript than the Folio text, and therefore of higher authority." Hamlet, in the Folio of 1623, when it differs from the quarto of 1604, "differs for the worse in forty-seven places, while it differs for the better in twenty places."

    Can the wit of man suggest any other explanation than that the editing of the Folio was carelessly done; out of the best quartos and MSS. in the theatre for acting purposes, and,--if the players did not lie in what they "often said," and if they kept the originals,--out of some MSS. received from Shakspere? Whether the two players themselves threw into the press, after some hasty botchings, whatever materials they had, or whether they employed an Editor, a very wretched Editor, or Editors, or whether the great Author, Bacon, himself was his own Editor, the preparation of a text was infamously done. The two actors, probably, I think, never read through the proof-sheets, and took the word of the man whom they employed to edit their materials, for gospel. The editing of the Folio is so exquisitely careless that twelve printer's errors in a quarto of 1622, of Richard III, appear in the Folio of 1623. Again, the Merry Wives of the Folio, is nearly twice as long as the quarto of 1619, yet keeps old errors.

    How can we explain the reckless retention of errors, and also the large additions and improvements? Did the true author (Bacon or Bungay) now edit his work, add much matter, and go wrong forty-seven times where the quarto was right, and go right twenty times when the quarto was wrong? Did he, for the Folio of 1623, nearly double The Merry Wives in extent, and also leave all the errors of the fourth quarto uncorrected?

    In that case how negligent was Bacon of his immortal works! Now Bacon was a scholar, and this absurd conduct cannot be imputed, I hope, to him.

    Mr. Pollard is much more lenient than his fellow-scholars towards the Editor or Editors of the Folio. He concludes that "manuscript copies of the plays were easily procurable." Sixteen out of the thirty-six plays existed in quartos. Eight of the sixteen were not used for the Folio; five were used, "with additions, corrections, or alterations" (which must have been made from manuscripts). Three quartos only were reprinted as they stood. The Editors greatly preferred to use manuscript copies; and showed this, Mr. Pollard thinks, by placing plays, never before printed, in the most salient parts of the three sets of dramas in their book. {215a} They did make an attempt to divide their plays into Acts and Scenes, whereas the quartos, as a general rule, had been undivided. But the Editors, I must say, had not the energy to carry out their good intentions fully--or Bacon or Bungay, if the author, wearied in well-doing. The work is least ill done in the Comedies, and grows worse and worse as the Editor, or Bacon, or Bungay becomes intolerably slack.

    A great living author, who had a decent regard for his own works, could never have made or passed this slovenly Folio. Yet Mr. Greenwood argues that probably Bungay was still alive and active, after Shakspere was dead and buried. (Mr. Greenwood, of course, does not speak of Bungay, which I use as short for his Great Unknown.) Thus, Richard III from 1597 to 1622 appeared in six quartos. It is immensely improved in the Folio, and so are several other plays. Who made the improvements, which the Editors could only obtain in manuscripts? If we say that Shakespeare made them in MS., Mr. Greenwood asks, "What had he to work upon, since, after selling his plays to his company, he did not preserve his manuscript?" {216a} Now I do not know that he did sell his plays to his company. We are sure that Will got money for them, but we do not know what arrangement he made with his company. He may have had an author's rights in addition to a sum down, as later was customary, and he had his regular share in the profits. Nor am I possessed of information that "he did not preserve his manuscript." How can we know that? He may have kept his first draft, he may have made a fair copy for himself, as well as for the players, or may have had one made. He may have worked on a copy possessed by the players; and the publisher of the quartos of 1605, 1612, 1622, may not have been allowed to use, or may not have asked for the latest manuscript revised copy. The Richard III of the Folio contains, with much new matter, the printer's errors of the quarto of 1622. I would account for this by supposing that the casual Editor had just sense enough to add the new parts in a revised manuscript to the quarto, and was far too lazy to correct the printer's errors in the quarto. But Mr. Greenwood asks whether "the natural conclusion is not that 'some person unknown' took the Quarto of 1622, revised it, added the new passages, and thus put it into the form in which it appeared in 1623." This natural conclusion means that the author, Bungay, was alive in 1622, and put his additions and improvements of recent date into the quarto of 1622, but never took the trouble to correct the errors in the quarto. And so on in other plays similarly treated. "Is it not a more natural conclusion that 'Shakespeare'" (Bungay) "himself revised its publication, and that some part of this revision, at any rate, was done after 1616 and before 1623." {217a}

    Mr. Greenwood, after criticising other systems, writes, {217b} "There is, of course, another hypothesis. It is that Shakespeare" (meaning the real author) "did not die in 1616," and here follows the usual notion that "Shakespeare" was the "nom de plume" of that transcendent genius, "moving in Court circles among the highest of his day (as assuredly Shakespeare must have moved)--who wished to conceal his identity."

    I have not the shadow of assurance that the Author "moved in Court circles," though Will would see a good deal when he played at Court, and in the houses of nobles, before "Eliza and our James." I never moved in Court circles: Mr. Greenwood must know them better than I do, and I have explained (see Love's Labour's Lost, and Shakespeare, Genius, and Society) how Will picked up his notions of courtly ways.

    "Another hypothesis," the Baconian hypothesis,--"nom de plume" and all,--Mr. Greenwood thinks "an extremely reasonable one": I cannot easily conceive of one more unreasonable.

    "Supposing that there was such an author as I have suggested, he may well have conceived the idea of publishing a collected edition of the plays which had been written under the name of Shakespeare, and being himself busy with other matters, he may have entrusted the business to some 'literary man,' to some 'good pen,' who was at the time doing work for him; and why not to the man who wrote the commendatory verses, the 'Lines to the Reader'" (opposite to the engraving), "and, as seems certain, the Preface, 'to the great variety of Readers'?" {218a}

    That man, that "good pen," was Ben Jonson. On the "supposing" of Mr. Greenwood, Ben is "doing work for" the Great Unknown at the time when "the business" following on the "idea of publishing a collected edition of the plays which had been written under the name of Shakespeare" occurred to the illustrious but unknown owner of that "nom de plume." In plain words of my own,--the Author may have entrusted "the business," and what was that business if not the editing of the Folio?--to Ben Jonson--"who was at the time doing work for him"--for the Author.

    Here is a clue! We only need to know for what man of "transcendent genius, universal culture, world-wide philosophy . . . moving in Court circles," and so on, Ben "was working" about 1621-3, the Folio appearing in 1623.

    The heart beats with anticipation of a discovery! "On January 22, 1621, Bacon celebrated his sixtieth birthday with great state at York House. Jonson was present," and wrote an ode, with something about the Genius of the House (Lar or Brownie),

    "Thou stand'st as if some mystery thou didst."

    Mr. Greenwood does not know what this can mean; nor do I. {219a}

    "Jonson, it appears" (on what authority?), "was Bacon's guest at Gorhambury, and was one of those good 'pens,'" of whom Bacon speaks as assisting him in the translation of some of his books into Latin.

    Bacon, writing to Toby Mathew, June 26, 1623, mentions the help of "some good pens," Ben Jonson he does not mention. But Judge Webb does. "It is an undoubted fact," says Judge Webb, "that the Latin of the De Augmentis, which was published in 1623, was the work of Jonson." {219b} To whom Mr. Collins replies, "There is not a particle of evidence that Jonson gave to Bacon the smallest assistance in translating any of his works into Latin." {219c}

    Tres bien, on Judge Webb's assurance the person for whom Ben was working, in 1623, was Bacon. Meanwhile, Mr. Greenwood's "supposing" is "that there was such an author" (of transcendent genius, and so on), who "may have entrusted the editing of his collected plays" to some "good pen," who was at the time "doing work for him," and "why not to"--Ben Jonson. {220a} Now the man for whom Ben, in 1623, was "doing work"--was BACON,--so Judge Webb says. {220b}

    Therefore, by this hypothesis of Mr. Greenwood, {220c} the Great Unknown was Bacon,--just the hypothesis of the common Baconian.

    Is my reasoning erroneous? Is the "supposing" suggested by Mr. Greenwood {220d} any other than that of Miss Delia Bacon, and Judge Webb? True, Mr. Greenwood's Baconian "supposing" is only a working hypothesis: not a confirmed belief. But it is useful to his argument (see "Ben Jonson and Shakespeare") when he wants to explain away Ben's evidence, in his verses in the Folio, to the Stratford actor as the Author.

    Mr. Greenwood writes, in the first page of his Preface: "It is no part of my plan or intention to defend that theory," "the Baconian theory." Apparently it pops out contrary to the intention of Mr. Greenwood. But pop out it does: at least I can find no flaw in the reasoning of my detection of Bacon: I see no way out of it except this: after recapitulating what is said about Ben as one of Bacon's "good pens" with other details, Mr. Greenwood says, "But no doubt that way madness lies!" {221a} Ah no! not madness, no, but Baconism "lies that way." However, "let it be granted" (as Euclid says in his sportsmanlike way) that Mr. Greenwood by no means thinks that his "concealed poet" is Bacon--only some one similar and similarly situated and still active in 1623, and occupied with other business than supervising a collected edition of plays written under his "nom de plume" of Shakespeare. Bacon, too, was busy, with supervising, or toiling at the Latin translation of his scientific works, and Ben (according to Judge Webb) was busy in turning the Advancement of Learning into Latin prose. Mr. Greenwood quotes, without reference, Archbishop Tenison as saying that Ben helped Bacon in doing his works into Latin. {221b} Tenison is a very late witness. The prophetic soul of Bacon did not quite trust English to last as long as Latin, or he thought Latin, the lingua franca of Europe in his day, more easily accessible to foreign students, as, of course, it was. Thus Bacon was very busy; so was Ben. The sad consequence of Ben's business, perhaps, is that the editing of the Folio is notoriously bad; whether Ben were the Editor or not, it is infamously bad.

    Conceivably Mr. Greenwood is of the same opinion. He says, "It stands admitted that a very large part of that volume" (the Folio) "consists of work that is not 'Shakespeare's' at all."

    How strange, if Ben edited it for the Great Unknown--who knew, if any human being knew, what work was "Shakespeare's"! On Mr. Greenwood's hypothesis, {222a} or "supposing," the Unknown Author "may well have conceived the idea of publishing a collected edition of the plays which had been written" (not "published," WRITTEN) "under the name of Shakespeare, and, being himself busy with other matters, he may have entrusted the business to" some "good pen," "and why not to"--Ben. Nevertheless "a very large part of that volume consists of work that is not 'Shakespeare's' at all." {222b} How did this occur? The book {222c} is "that very doubtful 'canon.'" How, if "Shakespeare's" man edited it for "Shakespeare"? Did "Shakespeare" not care what stuff was placed under his immortal "nom de plume"?

    It is not my fault if I think that Mr. Greenwood's hypotheses {222d}--the genuine "Shakespeare" either revised his own works, or put Ben on the editorial task--are absolutely contradicted by his statements in another part of his book. {222e} For the genuine "Shakespeare" knew what plays he had written, knew what he could honestly put forth as his own, as "Shakespeare's." Or, if he placed the task of editing in Ben's hands, he must have told Ben what plays were of his own making. In either case the Folio would contain these, and no others. But--"the plat contraire,"--the very reverse,--is stated by Mr. Greenwood. "It stands admitted that a very large portion of that volume" (the Folio) "consists of work that is not 'Shakespeare's'" (is not Bacon's, or the other man's) "at all." {223a} Then away fly the hypotheses {223b} that the auto-Shakespeare, or that Ben, employed by the auto-Shakespeare (apparently Bacon) revised, edited, and prepared for publication the auto-Shakespearean plays. For Mr. Greenwood "has already dealt with Titus (Andronicus) and Henry VI," {223c} and proved them not to be auto-Shakespearean--and he adds "there are many other plays in that very doubtful 'canon'" (the Folio) "which, by universal admission, contain much non-Shakespearean composition." {223d} Perhaps! but if so the two hypotheses, {223e} that either the genuine Shakespeare {223f} revised ("is it not a more natural solution that 'Shakespeare' himself revised his works for publication, and that some part, at any rate, of this revision {223g} was done after 1616 and before 1623?"), or {223h} that he gave Ben (who was working, by the conjecture, for Bacon) the task of editing the Folio,--are annihilated. For neither the auto-Shakespeare (if honest), nor Ben (if sober), could have stuffed the Folio full of non-Shakespearean work,--including four "non-Shakespearean" plays,--nor could the Folio be "that very doubtful canon." {224a} Again, if either the auto-Shakespeare or Ben following his instructions, were Editor, neither could have, as the Folio Editor had "evidently no little doubt about" Troilus and Cressida. {224b}

    Neither Ben, nor the actual Simon Pure, the author, the auto-Shakespeare, could fail to know the truth about Trodus and Cressida. But the Editor {224c} did NOT know the truth, the whole canon is "doubtful." Therefore the hypothesis, the "supposing," that the actual author did the revising, {224d} and the other hypothesis that he gave Ben the work, {224e} seem to me wholly impossible. But Mr. Greenwood needs the "supposings" of pp. 290, 293; and as he rejects Titus Andronicus and Henry VI (both in the Folio), he also needs the contradictory views of pp. 351, 358. On which set of supposings and averments does he stand to win?

    Perhaps he thinks to find a way out of what appears to me to be a dilemma in the following fashion: He will not accept Titus Andronicus and Henry VI, though both are in the Folio, as the work of HIS "Shakespeare," his Unknown, the Bacon of the Baconians. Well, we ask, if your Unknown, or Bacon, or Ben,--instructed by Bacon, or by the Unknown,--edited the Folio, how could any one of the three insert Titus, and Henry VI, and be "in no little doubt about" Troilus and Cressida? Bacon, or the Unknown, or the Editor employed by either, knew perfectly well which plays either man could honestly claim as his own work, done under the "nom de plume" of "William Shakespeare" (with or without the hyphen). Yet the Editor of the Folio does not know--and Mr. Greenwood does know--Henry VI and Titus are "wrong ones."

    Mr. Greenwood's way out, if I follow him, is this: {225a} "Judge Stotsenburg asks, 'Who wrote The Taming of a Shrew printed in 1594, and who wrote Titus Andronicus, Henry VI, or King Lear referred to in the Diary?'" (Henslowe's). The Judge continues: "Neither Collier nor any of the Shaxper commentators make (sic) any claim to their authorship in behalf of William Shaxper. Since these plays have the same names as those included in the Folio of 1623 the presumption is that they are the same plays until the contrary is shown. Of course it may be shown, either that those in the Folio are entirely different except in name, or that these plays were revised, improved, and dressed by some one whom they" (who?) "called Shakespeare."

    Mr. Greenwood says, "My own conviction is that . . . these plays were 'revised, improved, and dressed by some one whom they called Shakespeare.'" {226a} (Whom WHO called Shakespeare?) In that case these plays,--say Titus Andronicus and Henry VI, Part 1,--which Mr. Greenwood denies to HIS "Shakespeare" were just as much HIS Shakespeare's plays as any other plays (and there are several), which HIS Shakespeare "revised, improved, and dressed." Yet HIS Shakespeare is NOT author of Henry VI, {226b} not the author of Titus Andronicus. {226c} "Mr. Anders," writes Mr. Greenwood, "makes what I think to be a great error in citing Henry VI and Titus as genuine plays of Shakespeare." {226d}

    He hammers at this denial in nineteen references in his Index to Titus Andronicus. Yet Ben, or Bacon, or the Unknown thought that these plays WERE "genuine plays" of "Shakespeare," the concealed author--Bacon or Mr. Greenwood's man. It appears that the immense poet who used the "nom de plume" of "Shakespeare" did not know the plays of which he could rightfully call himself the author; that (not foreseeing Mr. Greenwood's constantly repeated objections) he boldly annexed four plays, or two certainly, which Mr. Greenwood denies to him, and another about which "the Folio Editor was in no little doubt."

    Finally, {227a} Mr. Greenwood is "convinced," "it is my conviction" that some plays which he often denies to his "Shakespeare" were "revised, improved, and dressed by some one whom they called Shakespeare." That some one, if he edited or caused to be edited the Folio, thought that his revision, improvement, and dressing up of the plays gave him a right to claim their authorship--and Mr. Greenwood, a dozen times and more, denies to him their authorship.

    One is seriously puzzled to discover the critic's meaning. The Taming of a Shrew, Titus, Henry VI, and King Lear, referred to in Henslowe's "Diary," are not "Shakespearean," we are repeatedly told. But "my own conviction is that . . . " these plays were "revised, improved, and dressed by some one whom they called Shakespeare." But to be revised, improved, and dressed by some one whom they called Shakespeare, is to be as truly "Shakespearean" work as is any play so handled "by Shakespeare." Thus the plays mentioned are as truly "Shakespearean" as any others in which "Shakespeare" worked on an earlier canvas, and also Titus "is not SHAKESPEAREAN at all." Mr. Greenwood, I repeat, constantly denies the "Shakespearean" character to Titus and Henry VI. "The conclusion of the whole matter is that Titus and The Trilogy of Henry VI are not the work of Shakespeare: that his hand is probably not to be found at all in Titus, and only once or twice, if at all, in Henry VI, Part I, but that he it probably was who altered and remodelled the two parts of the old Contention of the Houses of York and Lancaster, thereby producing Henry VI, Parts II and III." {228a}

    Yet {228b} Titus and Henry VI appear as "revised, improved, and dressed" by the mysterious "some one whom they called Shakespeare." If Mr. Greenwood's conclusion {228c} be correct, "Shakespeare" had no right to place Henry VI, Part I, and Titus in his Folio. If his "conviction" {228d} be correct, Shakespeare had as good a right to them as to any of the plays which he revised, and improved, and dressed. They MUST be "Shakespearean" if Mr. Greenwood is right {228e} in his suggestion that "Shakespeare" either revised his works for publication between 1616 and 1623, or set his man, Ben Jonson, upon that business. Yet neither one nor the other knew what to make of Troilus and Cressida. "The Folio Editor had, evidently, no little doubt about that play." {228f}

    So neither "Shakespeare" nor Ben, instructed by him, can have been "the Folio Editor." Consequently Mr. Greenwood must abandon his suggestion that either man was the Editor, and may return to his rejection of Titus and Henry VI, Part I. But he clings to it. He finds in Henslowe's Diary "references to, and records of the writing of, such plays" as, among others, Titus Andronicus, and Henry VI. {229a}

    Mr. Greenwood, after rejecting a theory of some one, says, "Far more likely does it appear that there was a great man of the time whose genius was capable of 'transforming dross into gold,' who took these plays, and, in great part, rewrote and revised them, leaving sometimes more, and sometimes less of the original work; and that so rewritten, revised, and transformed they appeared as the plays of 'Shake-speare.'" {229b}

    This statement is made {229c} about "these plays," including Titus Andronicus and Henry VI, while {229d} "Titus and the Trilogy of Henry VI are not the work of Shakespeare . . . his hand is probably not to be found at all in Titus, and only once or twice in Henry VI, Part I," though he probably made Parts II and III out of older plays.

    I do not know where to have the critic. If Henry VI, Part I, and Titus are in no sense by "Shakespeare," then neither "Shakespeare nor Ben for him edited or had anything to do with the editing of the Folio. If either or both had to do with the editing, as the critic suggests, then he is wrong in denying Shakespearean origin to Titus and Henry VI, Part I.

    Of course one sees a way out of the dilemma for the great auto-Shakespeare himself, who, by one hypothesis, handed over the editing of his plays to Ben (HE, by Mr. Greenwood's "supposing," was deviling at literary jobs for Bacon). The auto-Shakespeare merely tells Ben to edit his plays, and never even gives him a list of them. Then Ben brings him the Folio, and the author looks at the list of Plays.

    "Mr. Jonson," he says, "I have hitherto held thee for an honest scholar and a deserving man in the quality thou dost profess. But thou hast brought me a maimed and deformed printed copy of that which I did write for my own recreation, not wishful to be known for so light a thing as a poet. Moreover, thou hast placed among these my trifles, four plays to which I never put a finger, and others in which I had no more than a thumb. The Seneschal, Mr. Jonson, will pay thee what is due to thee; thy fardels shall be sent whithersoever thou wilt, and, Mary! Mr. Jonson, I bid thee never more be officer of mine."

    This painful discourse must have been held at Gorhambury,--if Ben edited the Folio--for Francis.

    It is manifest, I hope, that about the Folio Mr. Greenwood speaks with two voices, and these very discordant. It is also manifest that, whoever wrote the plays left his materials in deep neglect, and that, when they were collected, some one gathered them up in extreme disorder. It is extraordinary that the Baconians and Mr. Greenwood do not see the fallacy of their own reasoning in this matter of the Folio. They constantly ridicule the old view that the actor, Will Shakspere (if, by miracle, he were the author of the plays), could have left them to take their fortunes. They are asked, what did other playwrights do in that age? They often parted with their whole copyright to the actors of this or that company, or to Henslowe. The new owners could alter the plays at will, and were notoriously anxious to keep them out of print, lest other companies should act them. As Mr. Greenwood writes, {231a} "Such, we are told, was the universal custom with dramatists of the day; they 'kept no copies' of their plays, and thought no more about them. It will, I suppose, be set down to fanaticism that I should doubt the truth of this proposition, that I doubt if it be consonant with the known facts of human nature." But whom, except Jonson, does Mr. Greenwood find editing and publishing his plays? Beaumont, Fletcher, Heywood? No!

    If the Great Unknown were dead in 1623, his negligence was as bad as Will's. If he were alive and revised his own work for publication, {231b} he did it as the office cat might have done it in hours of play. If, on the other side, he handed the editorial task over to Ben, {232a} then he did not even give Ben a list of his genuine works. Mr. Greenwood cites the case of Ben Jonson, a notorious and, I think, solitary exception. Ben was and often proclaimed himself to be essentially a scholar. He took as much pains in prefacing, editing, and annotating his plays, as he would have taken had the texts been those of Greek tragedians.

    Finally, all Baconians cry out against the sottish behaviour of the actor, Will, if being really the author of the plays, he did not bestir himself, and bring them out in a collected edition. Yet no English dramatist ventured on doing such a thing, till Ben thus collected his "works" (and was laughed at) in 1616. The example might have encouraged Will to be up and doing, but he died early in 1616. If Will were NOT the author, what care was Bacon, or the Unknown, taking of his many manuscript plays, and for the proper editing of those which had appeared separately in pamphlets? As indolent and casual as Will, the great Author, Bacon or another, left the plays to take their chances. Mr. Greenwood says that "IF THE AUTHOR" (Bacon or somebody very like him) "HAD BEEN CARELESS ABOUT KEEPING COPIES OF HIS MANUSCRIPTS . . . " {232b} What an "if" in the case of the great Author! This gross neglect, infamous in Will, may thus have been practised by the Great Unknown himself.

    In 1911 Mr. Greenwood writes, "There is overwhelming authority for the view that Titus Andronicus is not SHAKESPEAREAN at all." {233a} In that case, neither Bacon, nor the Unknown, nor Ben, acting for either, can have been the person who put Titus into the Folio.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 12
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Andrew Lang essay and need some advice, post your Andrew Lang essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?